“Every song starts on an acoustic guitar for the most part,” Cruz begins. “If it’s a good song, it can be played acoustic. For about the past five years, I’ve been pushing the band to release a record in this format.”
The result is six brand new songs, as well as two re-worked older songs, “Matchbook” and “UnKoil.” Today, you can hear the first new track from the EP, “Town of Corazon,” over at Brooklyn Vegan. It’s a surprisingly subdued song from a band who is usually anything but that. As if that weren’t enough, Strung Out is touring the US and Canada with Pennywise, which kicks off this week!
“Kyle is a fan of the band,” the singer says. “I am the kind of person who wants to stray and go out into the unknown when I’m in the studio, but Kyle represents our fans. He didn’t let me stray too far with the melody or the music—just far enough to keep it fresh.”
With no set deadline on the release, the recording process went on for nearly the entirety of 2017, allowing for song arrangements to bloom in ways Strung Out songs never had before. “The songs came out really super-dark, not jingly-jangly acoustic stuff,” Cruz says. “We had to get other musicians involved. Some of it is sparse and intimate, and some of it has a lot going on.”
During the recording process, the band decided they needed to part ways with Jordan Burns, the band’s drummer since 1993. Cruz stresses that this decision was not an easy one to make, but it had to happen for the continued existence of Strung Out. “I think the band needed it,” Cruz admits. “It needed to happen for the band to survive and grow. We got to a point where we were going to break up if it didn’t.”
While in the studio, Strung Out realized some of the acoustic songs still needed drums. So the band enlisted their friend Sean Winchester, an accomplished drummer who has played with Everclear, Buckcherry and more, to fill out their sound. For their upcoming live shows, Strung Out will enlist RJ Shankle of California skate-punk band (and former tourmates) Runaway Kids to man the throne. Cruz is ecstatic about not only the fresh blood in his band, but what it means moving forward.
“Really, the whole theme of this record is rebirth,” he explains. “It’s the rebirth of our brotherhood and being a band. It’s astounding when you can keep a relationship together for three decades. There’s something so special about the music we write. We’re brothers beyond any kind of blood. It vindicates that we’re doing something right.
“I always ask myself, ‘What nerve do I have to get in front of a microphone?’” Cruz continues. “The fact that I kept this relationship together for 30 years says we worked through some shit. In our darkest times, we always came out with something beautiful because of it. In my mind, that gives me the right to get in front of that microphone.”
On Black Out The Sky, Cruz continues to dig deep internally, exploring parts of himself he’s yet to fully understand, taking the listener along for the ride, no matter how bumpy it may get.
“When we were kids, we all said, ‘Fuck God, fuck religion, fuck the government, let’s destroy it all,’” the frontman states. “Great. We did that. Punk rock did that. What are you gonna replace it with? Black Out The Sky is all about looking inward and finding what’s always been there, that intuition, that something to all of us. I don’t know what it is, but it’s the journey to find it and acknowledge it.”
Musically, the EP careens from songs that could be ported to full-band electric arrangements easily (“Requiem,” the title track) to mid-tempo grunge indebted to Alice In Chains (“The Architect”) to a full-on rollicking country song (“Duke Of Sorrow”). Cruz’s favorite number is “Town Of Corazon,” a surprisingly fragile song from a band who is usually anything but that. “’Town Of Corazon’ has the most balls we’ve ever displayed because it’s sweet and tender,” he admits. “It brings reference to spring and a new awakening. I’m so tired of screaming, the same riff, the same breakdown… I can’t stomach it anymore. Slipping in a sweet melody is the punkest thing we could do.”
Nearly three decades in, Strung Out is not driven by trends but instead by each other. As Cruz relays, “There is no ‘me’ in this band. It’s us. Whatever we think of, we’re gonna do it. Sometimes, people want to maintain a youthful aura about their band. That’s gone. We’re old dudes. But we’ve learned a thing or two. There’s nothing wrong with being an old dude. Lemme show you a road that I found; come with me.”
03/09/18 Boise, ID at Knitting Factory w/ Pennywise
03/10/18 Bend, OR at Midtown w/ Pennywise
03/11/18 Spokane, WA at Knitting Factory w/ Pennywise
03/13/18 Victoria, BC Canada at Capital Ballroom w/ Pennywise
03/14/18 Vancouver, BC Canada at Commodore w/ Pennywise
03/16/18 Costa Mesa, CA at OC Fair & Event Center Musink w/ Descendents, Blink 182
03/17/18 Edmonton, AB Canada at Union Hall w/ Pennywise
03/19/18 Saskatoon, SK Canada at O’Brians Event Center w/ Pennywise
03/20/18 Winnipeg, MB Canada at Garrick w/ Pennywise
03/22/18 Des Moines, IA at Woolys w/ Pennywise
03/23/18 Omaha, NE at Sokol w/ Pennywise
05/18/18 Los Angeles, CA at Regent Theater w/ Strife, La Armada, Twilight (Record Release Show)
BLACK OUT THE SKY track listing:
1. The Architect
2. Black Out the Sky
3. Town of Corazon
4. Unkoil (from An American Paradox)
6. Duke of Sorrow
7. Matchbook (from Twisted by Design)